Well, sometimes you discover that the start of your story isn’t the start of your story, and that’s what happened last week. So here’s the first scene, as they now stand, for Tilruna: Fall of House Andes. Please REMEMBER, this is RAW. It hasn’t been to betas or my editor yet. As always, rights are reserved, etc.
For those that are discovering this for the first time, T:FoHA is a prequel story to my fantasy space-opera universe, aka Tilruna. This particular story is based on Hamlet, in the same way that I take apart classic nursery rhymes and fairy tales in my series, The Yellow Hoods.
Chapter 1 – Wrenched
“We have an unexpected message inbound,” muttered the dwarf slumped at the communications console. “Let’s see who’s disturbing our peace out here in the middle of nowhere.” He sat up and waved over one of the runes on the console, bringing a second floating display to life. Tapping at a few symbols on it, he watched intently as the main display changed. He shot a glance over at the huddle of figures in the middle of the room. “Elmath, it’s from House Andes. The signature says it’s been sent directly from the home moon for you. It’s marked urgent and personal.”
Elmath’s pointed ears tilted backwards and she stared intently at the holographic projections around her and the two members of her inner circle. She looked at the space-station at the center, which they were on, and then at the massive shipbuilders and fighters around them. Life was dangerous and quiet at the edge of civilized space.
Her eyes darted back and forth.
“They’ve never communicated with us off schedule, at least not since I arrived,” said Torma, the elven woman beside Elmath as she folded her arms. In contrast to Elmath’s short hair and casual black jacket, Torma had traditional Elven hair, long hair and braided, and she wore a decorated military long coat with an empty spot where the crest of her House would normally be.
“Homeworld Elves are nothing if not—” the Ork Captain bit his lip and shook his head. “Old habits, bad habits.” He tugged at the edges of his untucked green jacket.
Elmath looked at the two of them. “I’ve been out here for sixty years, working on my and my father’s vision. We are so close now to having the first interstellar ships. This will end any arguments that we cannot bring rival Elven Houses together, to speak nothing of how much more we are able to do by bringing the best ideas and technologies from the different peoples together.” She sighed, rubbing her finger tips together.
“But…” said Torma.
“There hasn’t been a single communication off schedule in all that time.” Elmath gestured at the dwarf. “Send the signal to me.” She pointed at her artificial arm. “I’ll decrypt it and—”
“It’s not encrypted,” interrupted the dwarf at the console, wincing.
“Pardon?” said Elmath, her eyebrows up in alarm.
The Ork Captain glared at the dwarf, who shrugged in response.
An alert sounded. “There’s another one inbound,” said the dwarf. “What do you want me to do with the first one?”
“Play it,” answered Elmath, waving at the high ceiling.
“Are you sure?” asked the Ork Captain. “This command center space-station has plenty of room. We can give you some privacy.”
Elmath flashed a half-smile. “No. I’ve never taken a communique without you or your predecessors.” She pointed at the communication’s officer. “Play it.”
Static filled the room before being replaced by an aristocratic, smooth Elven voice, clearly from the homeworld’s capital. “It is the opportunity of the Governing Council to relay that the most honorable Headlum of House Andes, Andes Om Letham, has projected onwards from the astral plane. With his name now written in the stars, we issue regret and solace to his family and House—”
Elmath’s eyes went wide and she stumbled backwards, falling to the floor.
“Shut it off,” commanded Torma, kneeling next to Elmath.
The room immediately went quiet.
The Ork Captain frowned, his face confused. “That formal Elven talk and titles never makes sense to me.” He looked at Torma. “Does that mean—”
Torma glared back at him, cutting him off. “Her father’s dead.”
“Hmm,” grumbled the Ork. “Why isn’t she exploding with anger, like she does with other surprises?”
She took a failed swipe at him. “If you knew anything about her, you’d know that Lemath is the linch-pin of her universe. I’d only been here for a month before it was crystal clear to me.” She turned to Elmath. “Can you get up? You need to focus.”
Elmath was pale and sweaty, her eyes darting back and forth, back and forth. She opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. She kept blinked repeatedly.
“The next message is almost complete. Let’s see what we—Hold on, something’s wrong. This is a set of remote commands.” He jumped out of his hovering chair, his beard sticking straight out. “This can’t be right, it’s running without me doing anything!”There’s another message coming. No, wait, the relay is saying it’s a command set.”
“Stop it,” whispered Elmath, pushing on Torma to get to her feet. “Stop it.”
The Ork Captain joined the dwarf at his console. “It’s automatically updating the entire space station and the ship-manufacturing platforms.”
Everyone turned to the floor to ceiling observation window and watched as the ship-building platforms went dark, vanishing into the night of space. In the distance they could hear heavy machinery shutting down throughout the space station.
“How can they even do that?” yelled the Ork Captain, slamming his fist into the wall. “There’s a way to force an automatic update?”
Elmath shook her head. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“The hard-reset should be done in a moment,” said the dwarf, staring at his dark console.
They all looked around, waiting. Suddenly their feet came off the ground.
“Emergency power’s not responding. The gravity spell’s been broken!”
One by one, they ran their fingers along the runes at the top of their boots and their feet clamped down to the floor.
“Torma, you’re running low on charge,” said the Ork Captain, pointing at the small glowing line on the back of her boots. “We have some fresh mana-batteries over—”
“I’m fine,” she replied, bristling at the offer. “For all we know, this is an act of war by your people… again.”
“Enough!” Elmath ran her hand through her short, white hair. “This shouldn’t be happening. How can he be dead?” Her face twitched as she pushed her emotions deep inside.
“I want to know how someone could do this,” said Torma, shaking her head at the observation window. “They must have had inside help.”
“There was something…” The dwarf cover his eyes with a head and concentrated. “Before everything happened, I saw something flash across my console. I believe the message bounced off of our station and relayed to all of the fighters and ships in our area.”
The Ork Captain walked up to the window and pointed. “You’re right. Our fleet’s affected, look at them.” He turned, a worried expression on his rough face. “They’re shields are down, yarging Elven shields. Good thing they still have real armor.”
“I hoped as much,” said Torma. “What about the weapons systems?”
He scratched his chin. “They’ll need to switch those over, and that takes time. The folks I have on those ships will know what to do, we train for these moments.” He narrowed his eyes at Torma. “When your homeworld isn’t bathed in mana, you learn to not rely on it and accept that things can go wrong.” He lowered his eyes, thinking. “If this was me, I’d have sent a command to detonate the mana-cores… but we changed the design so that couldn’t happen.”
“I guess it’s not just anti-magic that’s been a secret out here.”
Elmath stared, the tips of her ears quivering. “How?” She put a hand over her eyes. “How?”
The dwarf scurried over to another console. “Nothing’s coming back, not even the secondaries. We’re dead as driftwood out here. No emergency systems means no cooling. This station’s not going to hold together for long.”
“My father?” said Elmath, squinting at the others.
“How drained down were the mana-reactors?” asked the Ork Captain.
“I’m afraid to say they were at full power, I checked them earlier,” replied Torma.
The Ork Captain snorted. “Yarg. That mean’s they’ll blow in a few hours at best, unless we get the cooling systems back online.”
“What’s that?” asked the dwarf, pointing at the screen, his hand shaking. “That black line… Please no. But the twin suns, no…”
“Black line, red streaks…” Torma swallowed hard. “That’s a swarm Hemogoblins.”
“Our fleet will be wiped out,” said the Ork Captain to Elmath.
She stared at him blankly.
“Elmath!” He came right up to her, towering over her. “We need to tell our fleet what’s coming. We need to find a way to communicate with them. This is what you’ve always been good at, so do it!”
She shook her head, her eyes showing the desire to speak but her body failing her.
The Ork Captain growled. “There must be something in the hanger we can use. Maybe that old Dwarven shuttle wasn’t affected.”
Torma stepped in front of him. “No. That’s for her.” She turned to Elmath. “You need to get home and learn the truth of what has happened to your father and here. Bring vengeance upon those responsible.”
“Do you want us all to die quietly here, at the edge of civilization? Or do you want a chance for some honor to be preserved?” asked Torma.
The Ork Captain reluctantly nodded.
Torma grabbed Elmath’s arm. “Elmath! Do you hear me? Get home. We’ll hold them off as long as we can.”
Elmath furrowed her brow again. “My father’s dead?”
“Listen! I know that our houses have been enemies for centuries, but if you believe our recent friendship to be well founded, then take heed in what I am saying. You must get home, confront the evils that have infected your House, and avenge us. Now, go!” She shoved Elmath towards the door.
“I’ll make sure she’s off,” said the Ork Captain. “And I pray that the Luck of the Damned doesn’t follow her home.”
How was that? Leave a comment.